What You Are Now Enjoying: Stories
Autumn House Press
Sarah Gerkensmeyer
“Dear John”

“Dear John” is from Sarah Gerkensmeyer’s new collection, WHAT YOU ARE NOW ENJOYING: STORIES (Autumn House Press).   The collection was winner of the 2012 Autumn House Press Fiction Prize and was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.   Gerkensmeyer’s stories have appeared in Guernica, The New Guard, The Massachusetts Review, and Cream City Review, among others.


She said this about her story:  When I wrote “Dear John,” I did not have a plan.  Usually, I am a writer with a plan.  I jot down story ideas and then begin to flesh them out in my notebooks before I start typing on a computer.  I take my time and highlight various things in various colors and draw stars and asterisks and arrows and question marks and little swirly symbols.  I find this process of note taking to be extremely satisfying and extremely detrimental to my writing.  I enjoy the planning too much.   I never want the story to begin.


When my second son was a newborn, plans were impossible (in both my everyday life and in my writing life).  In order to write, I had to give myself permission to write pieces that I didn’t think would ever go anywhere. I’ll just write a few random things, I told myself, to keep my writing muscles flexed.  I started to write during my newborn son’s sporadic and unpredictable moments of slumber, trying to churn out a draft of a complete story in a single sitting.  There was no time for a plan.  The stories I wrote during those frantic sessions were strange little beasts, but I did not set them aside.  In a couple weeks, I had a handful of short-short stories that would pull my entire collection together.


I just noticed the phrase “Once upon a time” near the end of “Dear John.”  I’ve been thinking a lot about fairy tales lately.  Maybe that’s what I was writing during my son’s naps.  I allowed myself to become lost in a dark forest without a map or even a pocketful of crumbs.  I did not chart out a plan for a disappearing husband.  I was too sleep-deprived and blindly desperate for plans.  I was in the forest, and he simply appeared.

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